Just like the Beatle founded the name of Volkswagen, so did the Sima (pronounce: Shee-mah, meaning, in Hungarian „Simple”) to Pointe. The Sima was a minimalist, but extremely well constructed integrated that brought good tube sound to hundreds of audio enthusiasts on a tight budget.
Today, when we at Pointe meet Sima owners who bring in their 20-year old amps for a check-up or tube replacement, they tell us they have bought new amplifiers since then, but instead of trading them in, they have kept their Simas and built secondary systems around them. There are signs that the Sima is actually reaching cult status: second-hand prices are now close to the original retail price, and we have seen several beautiful rebuilds, including the one in the photo gallery that was installed inside a handcrafted wooden cabinet.
The first Sima was made in 1994, and as such, it was the first ever series-produced Pointe amplifier. And what a series that was! There were several hundred Simas produced over the years under the Mk I, Mk II, SE and Jubilee tags. They were sold mostly in the Hungarian market and in the ex-Yugoslav countries. By the number of units sold the Sima is probably one of the most popular audiophile products in these markets.
The Sima was designed to be a tube powered „volksamplifier,” with minimalist styling, but reliable electronics and musical sound at a budget price. The original concept was developed by László Nagy, the owner of the L’Auditeur high-end store in Budapest, and the distributor of Pointe amplifiers in Hungary at that time. Originally an architect himself, Nagy took part in the design process of the new amplifier, but all the electronics were developed, manufactured and assembled in Subotica.
Due to the minimum concept the Sima had virtually zero features. The only exception was the blue power led on the front plate – please note that blue leds were not at all widely used at that time, for example the first blue-lit mobile phone display (the Nokia 6510) appeared much later. Today we just smile at it, but in its own time this had the wow-effect.
From a technical point of view it is more interesting, however, that the amp was in Mute mode after being switched on to allow a slow heat-up procedure for the tubes, which had a positive effect on tube lifetime. It was also remarkable that the output transformers had both dedicated 4 and 8 ohm connectors.
In the Sima everything was simple: a simple circuit, simple (but 1% tolerance) parts, simple internal wiring. In the most critical points, however, less compromise was needed. The output transformers, for example, were more than acceptable, and the original tubes were also a good choice: the Sima hit the market exactly at the time when Soviet and Yugoslav radio tubes were dumped from military stocks on the market, and these – otherwise good sounding – tubes could be bought for pennies. This greatly helped keep the Sima’s price down. The preamp section uses ECC83 and ECC82 tubes, while the power tubes are EL84’s (or their Soviet counterparts).
The Mk II Sima was born mostly because some of the original parts were impossible to source any more, and a minor redesign was needed. Once these parts had to be replaced anyway, they were substituted with better quality ones. The real difference, however, was in the output transformers – over the years Pointe learnt to make better sounding transformers for the same budget, and the MkII featured a pair of these new-generation output transformers.
The Sima also had an SE version. SE stands for both Special Edition, and Single Ended. The Sima SE was indeed Pointe’s only experience with a single ended design, and it was not a success: while it used many of the original Sima’s parts, the SE was some 25% more expensive. At the same time, because of the SE circuitry, its output power was limited to a mere 10 Watts per channel. This was a deadly combination for the SE: it cost considerably more money, yet it needed really high sensitivity loudspeakers (in the 98 – 100 dB realm) and this seriously limited its partnering combinations. Despite its interesting design and sweet sound, few SE’s were sold. As a matter of fact, a few pre-assembled SE cases (with the SE mark printed on the front plate) were used to house an original Sima circuitry – today these are the Mauritius Blue Penny examples of Pointe Amplifiers: SE on the outside, but original inside.
On the 10th Anniversary of the Pointe brand’s existence, a new series of Sima’s were produced. These were named the Sima Jubilee, and while keeping the original design and the original power tubes, they were significantly redesigned. The housing now got a sleek matt grey colour, but there were more dramatic changes inside.
First of all, the output transformers were heavily updated. The new transformer design was already the result of the Sixty-project, a development process aiming at producing a no-compromise high-end audio amplifier. Because of the new transformers, the back panel also changed: this time there were no separate binding posts for 4 and 8 ohm loudspeakers. (A reasonable downgrade to counterbalance the much more costly transformers.) The output tubes were still EL84’s, and, consequently, the output power also remained 15 Watts per channel. But overall sound quality was a leap forward, redefining the sonic standards of „entry level” amplifiers.
The Jubilee was kept in production for quite a few years to come, and was finally replaced only in 2011, with the coming of the Amplifica.
In its own time, the Sima was a unique audio product: it gave many audio enthusiasts the chance to experience the magic of a fully grown tube amplifier, because – despite its moderate price tag – sonically the Sima could present much of why people love the tube sound. The only real drawback of the Sima was the relatively low power output, which meant that the loudspeaker selection for the Sima was somewhat restricted to easy-load, high-sensitivity models.